Last November we reported on the efforts of farmer John Browning to defend Britain’s heritage from an army of thieves with metal detectors
Since then his 56 acre field, containing vital cultural property belonging to the whole British public has been raided a further SIX times. !!
Perhaps it is time to ask whether his efforts should be recognised, rewarded and supported? We spend £1.5 million a year attempting to persuade metal detectorists to reveal what they find. Perhaps we should spend a bit of that actually DEFENDING our heritage from those of them that steal it, both the artefacts themselves and the history attached to them. On a cost-benefit analysis that would seem to be a much better use of public funds – as has been realised in all other countries.
Everything the thieves steal from Mr Browning’s land ends up on EBay and a lot of what the other “legal” metal detectorists find ends up there too. Here is a very clear analysis by an American archaeologist of what a dreadful disaster for British heritage Ebay has been
Making it illegal for selfish and amoral people to dig up and particularly to sell communal history isn’t rocket science, as the rest of Europe has shown. (Even those British archaeologists who “support” or are paid to befriend detectorists disapprove of selling finds and not one of them ever picks up and swings a metal detector at a metal detecting rally – they wouldn’t and couldn’t as to act how metal detectorists do would put them in breach of a host of ethical obligations that being an archaeologist commits them to. This is something that detectorists who claim they are “supported” by archaeologists seem to have failed to observe or work out).
Time for us to get in line with the rest of the world and with the rest of the world’s archaeological opinion perhaps, and for British archaeologists to say what they REALLY think of what’s happening. Mr Browning shouldn’t be left to do and say it on his own!